Meringue Chardonnay Edna Valley 2018The StoryThe Meringue Chardonnay Edna Valley 2018 is a $7.99 Trader Joe's exclusive sourced from the Edna Valley AVA which is located south of Paso Robles along the Pacific Ocean coast inside the Central Coast AVA of California. Edna Valley may not be the best known AVA in California but it has an excellent reputation for producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.Single AVA wines rarely sell in regular retail wine shops for under ten bucks or maybe more like under twenty bucks. This is one of the reasons I enjoy Trader Joe's wines. You can explore somewhat off the beaten path growing areas or wines from upscale growing regions and not risk a great deal of money. Most folks wouldn't know to look for Edna Valley Chardonnay, but for $7.99 they can give it a try.Most Trader Joe's exclusive wines don't have much to offer in the way of technical notes, but the Meringue Chardonnay Edna Valley 2018 was featured in this month's Fearless Flyer. Their tasting notes give us some indication of what winemaking techniques were used. What the winemaker did to produce this Chardonnay is very important, since it seems that no 2 Chardonnays are exactly alike. Similarities, yes, alike, no.Processes such as malolactic fermentation and on lees, along with whether they conditioned the wine with oak are extremely important. Did all the Chardonnay undergo malolactic fermentation or just a percentage, did any of the Chard see oak barrel conditioning. New barrels, used barrels, oak chips or no oak? The winemakers can use any of these techniques in any proportion they choose and each decision makes a difference in the flavor of the wine. And we didn't discuss grape selection or other more technical methods, Chardonnay is complicated.Trader Joe's says the Meringue has green apple, lemon and pineapple flavors along with crème brulée and vanilla. All those tastes lead me to think at least partial malolactic fermentation with a good bit of some sort of oak aging. The flavors that come from oak(vanilla) seem to be pronounced, so a decent amount of time in oak barrels or oak staves in stainless steel vats are suggested. The flavors seemed to be rounded rather than tart so a certain percentage of malolactic fermentation probably was used. The crème brulée may have come from "on lees" aging, since the more the lees are stirred the creamier the wine becomes. These are all guesses on my part and made to demonstrate that Chardonnay is complicated, even value-priced Chardonnay.Meringue Chardonnay Edna Valley 2018 Tasting NotesThe color is a wheat yellow with an amber tint. The nose is ripe apples and melon, lemon and vanilla, soft spice and orange blossom honey, and light floral edge. This is a Chardonnay dry, with a firm mouthfeel and rich flavors. It tastes of Golden Delicious apple, grapefruit (not too tart), oak spice, a little French vanilla, and nectarine. The mid-palate adds a light halo of pineapple (that was part of the Fearless Flyer tasting notes, so I don't know if getting that flavor is the power of suggestion, but it's faint but it is there), tart blood orange, and just a hint of cream. The acidity is well-balanced, it allows the flavors to unfold and will get you reaching for another sip. The finish is soft but lasts a long time.The Summary It is $7.99, but the Meringue Edna Valley can hold its own with Chardonnay selling for a good five dollars more. It has complexity and flavor that no sub-ten dollar Chardonnay would be expected to have as little as 5 years ago. This is a Chardonnay that punches above its weight class.